Coordinating as One Body When Hosting Shen Yun in Ottawa
(Clearwisdom.net) In January 2007, Ottawa hosted the Shen Yun Performing Arts show for the first time. Although we had no experience, we sold all 2,300 tickets more than five weeks before the show. The National Arts Center (NAC) staff told us excitedly that all standing-room tickets were also sold ahead of time. This was a first for the NAC.
Reflecting on the cultivation path I have walked throughout the past three years as one of the main coordinators on the Ottawa Shen Yun gala board, I am convinced that Master is looking after us with great care. Also, I witnessed the truth of Master's words, "For Dafa disciples as a whole, in the process of validating the Fa, when you work together in concert, the Fa power is great." ("Explaining the Fa During the 2003 Lantern Festival at the U.S. West Fa Conference).
1. Coordinating as a Whole Body
In June 2006, two Falun Dafa Association members in Ottawa were involved in an important and urgent project - exposing the China Communist Party's (CCP) organ harvesting atrocities. Therefore, fellow practitioners and even the main coordinators were of different opinions about hosting the Shen Yun Performing Arts show in Ottawa. We decided to have just one show! Everyone expressed his/her views fully, and obviously we did not have a very clear understanding from the perspective of the Fa. We did not understand clearly that Master is rectifying the Fa through Shen Yun. But, the minute the decision was made, we each let go of self and cooperated unconditionally.
The promotional plan entailed creating the least interference to other Fa-validating projects and doing the best with the least manpower. Therefore, our plan did not involve the two coordinators of the Falun Dafa Association, who were in charge of exposing the CCP's organ harvesting atrocities, as well as practitioners involved in other major projects. Sponsorship was also connected with the sale of the Epoch Times. No matter who came up with a good idea, others cooperated fully and supported it with righteous thoughts.
Before the ticket selling started, some practitioners thought that we should achieve the goal of "Not having any tickets unsold," with the idea to set a precedent for future ticket sales. We agreed that this would be a great thought and acted accordingly. We made use of all good suggestions, communicated well and volunteered for what needed to be done, from selling tickets at malls, putting up posters, distributing flyers, selling tickets in offices and Chinese communities to looking for media sponsorship, and much more. There were only about seven practitioners dedicated to this task, yet we acted as one, forgot self and cooperated well. It was a very harmonious and peaceful activity. Media promotion was perfectly coordinated with the ticket selling at malls, as if gods had arranged it. We were so absorbed in the task before us that we did not have time to count how many tickets we had sold for three weeks. In the fourth week, a practitioner asked if we had checked with the NAC about the first four weeks' sales. We had sold in malls and box offices more than half of all the tickets and we still had three months left before the show.
Looking back on the path we had walked that first year, every one of us experienced the boundless power of Dafa when we coordinate as one body.
2. "Experience" and "Personal Abilities"
In January 2008, there were two shows in Ottawa, one on Sunday and one on Monday. We had 4,400 tickets to sell. Remembering the effortlessness and efficiency of the first year, I attained a show-off mentality and the attachment to validating myself. I reasoned that my plan and methods were good and forgot that everything is done by Master. Master pointed out in Zhuan Falun,
"You see them behaving like nice people in day-to-day life and out in the ordinary world, and they take their reputation and their own gain lightly. But once they stand out a little among their peers, they tend to be affected by reputation and gain."
As a result, the promotion in 2008 did not go as smoothly as hoped. Every practitioner who had participated the prior year had some "experience" that he/she could draw upon. And this "experience" subconsciously became the practitioners' "individual abilities." This time, we did not communicate or cooperate as well.
But, we are Dafa disciples, and cultivation practice is our priority. At different times during our cultivation, Master has arranged opportunities to eliminate our human mentalities. If we ignore this, our cultivation practice will stagnate. If truth be told, when our plan was put in place, we didn't look within. Instead, we complained and pointed fingers. In consequence, we could not find any shopping centers where we wouldn't have to pay rent for the booth space for selling tickets, and the gap in the whole body increased exponentially. Therefore, tickets sold very slowly.
Eventually, we realized that we should look within. Otherwise, it would affect the salvation of sentient beings. After we rectified our hearts and let go of self, a miracle happened. The tickets for the Sunday show were sold out in advance, and 960f the tickets for the two shows were sold, even though non-practitioners thought that it would be difficult to sell tickets for a Monday show.
After the shows, every practitioner who participated in the sales project looked within to find what had not been done well. We agreed that we needed to be more diligent when it came to our cultivation, and we gave all practitioners a chance to vent and speak. Everyone listened to each other's opinions and discussed ways to improve. We all were positive about doing better next time.
3. Dilemma of One Hundred Thousand Flyers
A coordinator should be very clear about the Fa principles. That person has the responsibility to keep up with any changes that occur during this Fa-rectification in order to "Follow Teacher closely, steadfastly cultivating Dafa" ("The Knowing Heart") and at the same time is accountable for the upgrade and improvement of the whole body. Master said, "The focus for you right now is simply to find ways to do better, to be more efficient, to have a greater impact, and to save more people." ("Fa Teaching at the U.S. Capital")
Ottawa's population is only 880,000 people. If we include people from nearby cities, the count is only 1,200,000 people. In 2009, we cherished the chance that the Falun Dafa Association was in charge of presenting the Shen Yun show. Although it is difficult to aid Master in saving more sentient beings, we decided to have four shows. That meant that we had to sell 8,800 tickets.
From the very beginning, we encouraged each other, compensated for each other's shortcomings, and harmonized with each other. It didn't matter who gave the suggestion, such as purchasing ancient Chinese costumes, selling tickets in nearby cities, having marketing training and so on, everyone cooperated. One of the coordinators helped with the implementation of certain good suggestions without attracting public attention. However, not everything went smoothly. Human attachments that hadn't been removed emerged from time to time.
In August 2008, after the first printing of the Shen Yun flyers, we discovered a major typographic error. The show time for Friday evening was 8:00 p.m., but it said 2:00 p.m. on the flyer. I felt very uncomfortable in my heart. I had been overconfident and didn't ask practitioners to proofread it before it went for printing. The result was devastating--100,000 flyers had a major misprint.
Upon hearing about this major problem, one of the coordinators became very upset with me. She blamed me for my strong self that turned into such a large and costly mistake. She also repeated words I had said, and spoke of my behavior she had noticed over the past weeks. Her words were biting. Another coordinator also echoed her views. At that time, tempers were high and the atmosphere was no longer peaceful.
A few days later, another practitioner told us that the practitioner who had made the mistake felt very guilty, as everyone blamed him. She asked us to think about it.
Later, that coordinator shared with me that it was a great shock to her, like a heavy hammer coming down on her and waking her up. Gradually, she no longer looked for others' mistakes. I am very happy for her change.
This, in fact helped us to further understand why Master said that practitioners should look within unconditionally instead of finding what is right or what is wrong superficially, during times of conflicts or when major problems show up. On the surface, it could be the mistake of somebody else. In fact, it is a chance for us all to look within. When we point out other people's problems, our attitude is very important too. Master also told us when a mistake is made, instead of correcting the mistake, we should help harmonize everything. Everyone makes mistakes, so we should be tolerant with each other. It was a warning to me as well. In the past, we rarely made mistakes because we believed in the power of the whole body. When a person's self is too strong, the evil will take advantage of the loophole.
Ottawa practitioners showed tolerance and optimism once they were told about the problem with the flyers. They agreed that we should correct the flyers. Therefore, some bought pens, some divided flyers, and some printed stickers. Many practitioners helped correct the error. Some practitioners shared that even though they had not been part of the proofreading and printing the flyers team, they would add positive energy to the flyers when correcting the mistake so that ordinary people would truly become interested in seeing the Shen Yun show. Almost all Ottawa practitioners participated.
4. Sponsorship Drive
After the first Ottawa Shen Yun show in 2007, a reporter from the main local western media, driven by a desire to please the CCP, wrote an article without having seen the show, which created a very bad effect and caused lots of interference. We held a press conference, exposed the lies and clarified the facts to clear up misconceptions about Falun Gong. At the same time we wanted to present our side of this issue. We made appointments with the reporter and the newspaper president, whom we will call "R." R is in charge of sponsorship and he watched the show. I presented the facts about the persecution of Falun Gong in China to him and shared the great tributes we received from many in the audience. At that time, the CCP officials went into action. In late 2007, the CCP invited the reporter for an all-expenses-paid trip to China. He went to Sujiatun and wrote an article that lacked the truth, in an attempt to deny the allegation of the CCP's organ harvesting atrocities. We continued to clarify the truth to him and the media. While preparing the shows in 2008, due to a lack of righteous thoughts and having no one to help me, I did not get the media sponsorship from this newspaper.
When preparing for the 2009 shows, I realized that I should have strong righteous thoughts, so that this newspaper would sponsor the show and make up for the losses they caused. This is true compassion. After the 2008 show, I told R that the show achieved great success. Despite the Chinese Embassy's strong interference, we held more shows and achieved what we had set out to do. This shocked R quite a bit. Therefore, when I asked him for sponsorship from his newspaper, he did not refuse, but felt rather awkward.
In early July, R agreed to meet with me. He invited his colleagues to join the meeting, to be held on a Friday. It was tough going! I had waited for six months for this meeting. Before the meeting, I sang the "Fa Rectifies the Cosmos" while driving. Then, R called and claimed that the other person could not make it, and canceled the meeting. I asked for another meeting the following week, but R said that he would be on a four-week holiday. I was puzzled and suddenly realized, "The desire to show off plus the attachment of zealotry are most easily exploited by the demonic part of your mind." (Essentials for Further Advancement)
After R returned from his vacation I called often for another appointment, and R finally agreed to a meeting in mid-August. By then, I had thought of the story told by Master in Zhuan Falun about 'cultivating to an Arhat.' I told myself to have righteous thoughts and nothing else than the heart to save people. Therefore, I asked another practitioner who has very strong righteous thoughts to come along, and to send forth righteous thoughts during the meeting.
R asked as soon as he met us, "Is the message in the 2009 shows the same as in 2007?" He actually asked in a round about way if there was any Falun Gong content in the show. I said, "The same. The show intends to promote genuine traditional Chinese culture. The part about Falun Gong is the essence of traditional culture and is an important part of the show." R no longer approached the subject matter and asked details about the sponsorship. After a few days, R told me that they had decided to sponsor us, and how they were going to sponsor.
This was a wake-up call for me. I realized that a coordinator has his/her limitations. Any attachment could be an excuse for the old forces to interfere, but when we cooperate well as a whole body, loopholes are closed and it won't be that easy to be interfered with. Master told us, "The great Tao has no formality," and "Since they're Buddhas, they have a human form. They can also assemble into a form or disperse into matter" ("Teaching the Fa in New York City," March 23, 1997).
I understood that we can form all kinds of teams and groups, small or large, but we still need to retain the whole body concept. A coordinator shared that ticket selling at any location reflected the overall cultivation status of that location. It was not only subject to the individual's cultivation state, but depended on the entire energy field created by all practitioners in that area. Thus, we should coordinate well with and support each other. Another coordinator in charge of ticket selling attached great importance to forming the best whole body. She carefully arranged practitioners according to their cultivation states to form the best team and the best energy field to save sentient beings. I saw where I fell short and the distance I still had to walk to catch up with other practitioners.
5. Purchasing Space in Malls
In early September of 2008, we embarked on a large-scale ticket sales drive. Although it appeared that we did our best, we did not reach the goal we had set for ourselves. After mid-October, with no visible improvement in ticket sales and only two and a half months left, the coordinators began to worry. It affected our enthusiasm when we didn't get permission to sell tickets at a big chain store in eastern Canada. Before Christmas is the most effective time to sell tickets. Therefore, we felt that we had lost a great ticket-selling venue. The coordinator and the practitioners involved in this activity looked within for xinxing problems. They pointed out that perhaps practitioners in eastern Canada attached too much importance to this chain store. At the same time, Ottawa practitioners went into action by purchasing space in November and December in the biggest mall. A coordinator in charge of other major Dafa projects accepted responsibility for booking the mall.
Generally, Christmas time selling spaces should be booked before the end of June, and the spaces sell out fast. We discovered that there was space left in the biggest mall. We felt Master's compassion. Because they didn't know all the facts about the persecution of Falun Gong, the mall officials hesitated when renting the space to us. After continued clarification of the facts, we were allotted the space. Alas, we were settled with disagreements amongst ourselves about renting this space.
One coordinator suggested that $10,000 was too expensive for a two-month rental and worried whether it would lead to a barrier for us to find free space as a non-profit organization in the future. I was very confident and said, "There won't be any barrier." I continued, with a confident voice, "This is quality time. The cost is even lower than what we would have paid the chain store. I am expecting to spend 10% to 150f our revenue to cover the cost. Let's just do it." That coordinator relented and kept quiet. We purchased the space in the first mall and I immediately arranged for people to sell tickets there.
Master said, "While working, your tone of voice, your kind-heartedness, and your reasoning can change a person's heart, whereas commands never could!" ("Clearheadedness" from Essentials for Further Advancement) I also gained a better understanding of what Master meant by, "Dafa is harmonizing all sentient beings, and all sentient beings are also harmonizing Dafa." ("Expounding on the Fa" from Essentials for Further Advancement) I realized that even if it is a good idea to validate Dafa while harmonizing Dafa, we should not impose on others. We should think more about others, taking into consideration others' ability to understand and accept things.
Within a week, the tickets were selling very well at the mall. Soon, that coordinator took over the mall scheduling. He called and asked whether we should purchase space in another mall because the people living in that area had higher incomes. I realized that this practitioner was not attached to her idea and had a better understanding by watching other coordinators and the principle of the Fa, "But true improvements come from letting go, not from gaining." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2002 Fa Conference in Philadelphia, U.S.A.") That experience taught me that what is important is not the method itself but our hearts in harmonizing Dafa and letting go of self.
6. Last Month of Ticket Selling
From early September to the end of November, a three-month period, we sold 4,000 tickets. By December, we still had 4,800 tickets left to sell. It was not going to be easy to sell 4,800 tickets within one month.
The coordinator in charge of ticket management put in much time and lost a lot of sleep. She at times stayed up until three or four or even six a.m. to assign the ticket sales for the next day. Practitioners went into action. One practitioner offered to help with assigning tickets and a coordinator offered to take over shift arrangements for malls. More and more practitioners stepped forward. The coordinator in charge of other major projects stepped forward and cooperated with ticket sales. Some practitioners took some time off from work and another postponed his graduation.
Alas, we were faced with another unexpected difficulty. On December 10, 2008, Ottawa's transportation workers union announced a strike over salary and other issues with the city. All buses stopped running and ticket sales at the two malls were affected, as traffic in the malls began to decrease. Some people asked to return tickets, claiming that without buses they couldn't come to see the show. But Ottawa practitioners' hearts were not moved. We sent forth righteous thoughts to eliminate the interference. Our thoughts were not affected by exterior changes, as our internal change was what affected the outcome and was fundamental to our doing well.
On December 14, 2008, with only two and a half weeks to go, we had 3,200 tickets left. It was critical. The coordination team called an urgent experience sharing meeting. One coordinator shared the urgency of saving people and hoped that we would not leave any regrets behind. Fellow practitioners shared the importance of keeping a pure heart by eliminating tiresome and human mentalities with righteous thoughts. The most important thing was no matter how busy or tired we were, we should insist on studying the Fa and doing the exercises. Belief in the Fa and in Master is the guarantee for success in everything we do. Some practitioners shared how to strengthen sending forth righteous thoughts. Some shared the importance for practitioners at each sales location to harmonize with each other and to support each other. Some shared that Master had assigned every seat to a being to be saved, and we should just try our best to make it happen. We encouraged each other and thought that we were lucky for the opportunity to endure a bit suffering at the moment. If we did not do well, there was no time left for us to feel regretful. One coordinator who works in a small business took six weeks off from work. Other coordinators and practitioners, no matter where they worked, spent all their time selling tickets. Some practitioners and coordinators who weren't involved in selling tickets took over other projects and things related to the show.
I saw that Ottawa practitioners were facing great difficulties, yet treated every sentient being with their divine thoughts and compassion to save them. They spread the beauty of Shen Yun to people in the world. I felt that practitioners as a whole achieved a state of no energy channels and no acupuncture points as if the macrocosmic orbits were open. Everyone worked voluntarily, cooperated with and supported each other, and compensated where another lacked the ability. Everyone became a coordinator. That unprecedented activeness touched me.
"The beings that are handled with benevolent solutions are assimilated to the Fa by the best method. And Dafa disciples are getting something even better than a benevolent solution, because Dafa disciples are cultivating proactively, and cultivating themselves toward the future, so it's more precious than being benevolently resolved." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 Western U.S. Fa Conference")
Perhaps the unshakable firmness, the silent cooperation and the contribution by every Ottawa disciple moved the positive gods in this universe. Miracles occurred. Within ten days after the experience sharing, we sold 2,000 tickets! The highest selling record in one of the malls was 100 tickets per day. Box offices and TicketMaster's highest tally was 95 tickets per day.
I felt deeply that coordination is just a form and it is Master who strengthens us and the Fa of the cosmos that coordinates us all.
Out of 8,800 tickets for four shows, we sold 8,620 tickets, up to 98%. Seeing so many people being saved, we felt the boundless compassion of Master. We appreciated that Master gave us a precious chance to upgrade as a whole body.
7. After the Show
Every year when coordinating for the shows, because of the pressure and stress we faced, we could be strict with ourselves, measure ourselves with the criteria of the Fa, and harmonize everything. However, there were tests to our individual cultivation that we didn't pass well at the time. After the show we ran into conflicts. I felt the compassion of Master, who gives much thought to our salvation.
After this year's shows, conflicts between myself and another coordinator arose again, as well as conflicts with a third practitioner. She suggested that the federal government members in Ottawa are very important, therefore we should try our best to present Shen Yun when the House is open. She suggested hosting more shows in May and presenting Shen Yun when the House is open next year. Other coordinators had different opinions, and I had my thoughts too. We all held to our own suggestions and reasoning for about four weeks. In the end, we had difficulties finding a venue for 2010 and realized that we had to cultivate more diligently. We were faced with a big loss.
The practitioner came to see me and wanted to solve the cultivation problem. That night, all four practitioners involved in that particular activity had a meeting. One of them pointed out my problem. She said, "Xun Li has had ample experience in hosting the Shen Yun shows, and therefore she reverted to the human self, preferring good words. In fact, the federal government work is really important. It is not a bad idea for the coordinator to make a suggestion. Of course you see limitations to a given idea, but the fundamental issue is that you do not agree with her suggestion and it made you feel uncomfortable."
I admired that this practitioner was straight forward and very perceptive. I remembered what Master said,
"Why is it that at times you see arguments coming up a lot, and sometimes the arguments go on and on? Why is it that in validating the Fa, disciples' opinions are time and again not unified?"
"What's the real problem? It's very simple--it is a question of whether you are validating the Fa or validating yourself." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 International Fa Conference in New York").
I realized that we need to let go of self. We should not slack off after the shows are over and leave a loophole for the evil.
Before closing, I would like to talk about facing conflicts and tribulations. In the past, I said that when everything went smoothly in validating Dafa, we felt the enormous compassion of Master. But recently I have come to understood more and more, and another side of gods' compassion when humans are faced with conflicts and tribulations. I understood more about the lyrics written by Master for Shen Yun, "Why Refuse" that "Compassion is the eternal state of god." Master mentioned in "Teaching the Fa to Australian Disciples" that "It is a 'good' thing no matter what you come across in cultivation practice." Master also said that to have tribulations is absolutely great and that even gods may feel jealous. I was deeply touched by what Master said.
Master pointed out,
"How can you do the exercises comfortably and restfully? How can there be such a thing? That is what you think, from the perspective of everyday people."
"That Buddha, of course, will not do anything for this person because that problem is arranged by the Buddha, intending to improve his xinxing and upgrade him by way of the tribulation." (Zhuan Falun)
I sometimes act with a selfish heart. I realize that what gods do is totally different than what is understood from the standpoint of human beings. The standpoint of gods is "for others." Master said,
"Selfishness is a fundamental attribute of the cosmos of the past. Because of that attribute, formation-stasis-degeneration-destruction and birth-aging-sickness-death are inevitable. In the future the Fa will be all-harmonizing, perfect, and selfless." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 Western U.S. Fa Conference")
Recently I was helping to solve problems in different areas. I found a general phenomenon that coordinators were attached to self. I realized that it was not a coincidence that I got involved with this. It not only helps me let go of this attachment, but also makes me realize that it is a severe form of persecution to the whole body by the old forces if coordinators are attached to self. The old forces enlarge this attachment, not only achieving the goal of strengthening the persecution of the coordinators, but also of separating the whole body, and thus interfering with the Fa-rectification of the area or an even larger area.
The path of cultivation practice is actually very narrow. I will study the Fa well, upgrade my xinxing and walk on the most righteous path. I will deny the path of "self" arrangements by the old forces, and I will follow the righteous principle of the universe and walk on the path of "selflessness and altruism," a path "for others."
Many Dafa disciples were involved in promoting Shen Yun, and there is quite a gap between the sources we made use of and what Master hopes to achieve when it comes to saving sentient beings, and what the Fa requires of us. How can we make the professional way of "selling shows" come true and have Shen Yun shows year round? How can we achieve the goal of saving more people by using the least manpower and resources? That is what we need to break through as a whole.
Thank you Master!
Thank you, fellow practitioners!